Montana Public Radio

Montana Joins Suit Against Opioid Distributors

Feb 3, 2020

Montana’s Attorney General is suing two of the largest opioid distributors in the state for allegedly fueling prescription drug overdoses. The state’s lawsuit filed Monday says McKesson Corporation and Cardinal Health Inc. together shipped more than 60 percent of the opioids coming into the state from 2006-2014.

Attorney General Tim Fox summarized in a Helena press conference the nearly 100 page lawsuit over the companies' policies for distributing pain-killing drugs like oxycodone, oxycontin, and certain forms of fentanyl.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.
Credit Montana DOJ

"The increased volume of opioid prescribing and distribution correlates directly to skyrocketing addiction, overdose and death," Fox said.

During the 9-year period in which the lawsuit frames many of its claims, Fox says McKesson and Cardinal Health distributed over 432 million opioid pills in Montana.

According to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Montana’s opioid overdose death rate rose and fell between that time window, from as low as 5.2 deaths per 100,000 in 2006 to a high of 9.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2009.

Montana’s lawsuit joins similar complaints filed by state attorneys general targeting opioid distributors amid the painkiller epidemic.

McKesson Senior Manager of Corporate Public Relations Sunny Rodriguez sent Montana Public Radio the following statement: “Our company plays an important but limited role in the pharmaceutical supply chain, and any suggestion that McKesson drove demand for opioids in this country reflects a fundamental misunderstanding and mischaracterization of our role as a distributor. We will continue to fight that mischaracterization and defend ourselves in the litigation.”

Cardinal Health Inc. did not immediately respond to Montana Public Radio’s request for comment.

The Montana lawsuit was filed in the state district court in Lewis and Clark County.

Fox is a candidate in the Republican primary race for Governor.